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My Kingdom for a Crown:
An Around-the-World History of the Skullcap and its Modern Socio-Political Significance

by

©Reverend Antonio Hernández

skullcap (skúl’kap), n. 1. A small, brimless, close-fitting cap, often made of silk or velvet, worn on the crown of the head. 2. YARMULKE. 3. The domelike roof of the skull [the parietal bone]….

When the ancient mummy “Tollund Man”, thoughtto be around five millennia old, was found in a Danish bog in the early 1970’s, his intact leather headgear astounded archaeologists (he was not wearing anything else, anyway). Scholars believe Tollund Man was a druid- or perhaps a Mithraic- who had been granted the great privilege of being sacrificed to the god of the bogs. His skullcap is thought to be a symbol of his priesthood and socialstanding. After another mummy was found in the Swiss Alps, known as the “Iceman”, scientists were able to reconstruct his exact wardrobe- right down to his large fur skullcap. “Iceman” is estimated to be as old as “Tollund Man”, and probably belonged to the same culture. It is striking that both these men wore the oldest known headcovering: the skullcap. The skullcap seems to have always had severalessential functions: protection (spiritual as well as physical), symbolism, rank, identification, education/training, and commitment (i.e., as in a religious or sociopolitical commitment). Naturally it seems that the skullcap was born in rougher, colder climates- yet we find indigenous skullcap traditions in countries where temperatures soar into the 100’s, such as Saudi Arabia and India. There insuch heat, a skullcap is really the ideal protection, just as it is in any freezing cold country. In

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point of fact, we seem to find evidence that the skullcap served, from its very birth, multiple functions. But the skullcap, covering the head, was probably the greatest and most vital symbol in the world at one time. It was (and still is) a crown any and every person could wear. It isimportant to note that there seem to be no skullcap traditions for a certain small number of nations, such as the Native Americans, Polynesian, Micronesian, Islander, and Aborigine. Why this is we do not know; perhaps it is a clue in the mystery of the skullcap’s presence in the ancient world- perhaps due to the climates. In addition, we do not as yet know if the Neanderthals wore skullcaps; it isimpossible to conjecture exactly how they might have dressed or groomed. Thus far only 1,000 distinct remains have been uncovered, and certainly none bore clothing of any kind. In the case of the recently found 3,000 year old Taklimakan Desert mummies (Caucasians found well inside Chinese borders) all their clothing was exquisitely intact. They even wore tartans and a few pointed hats were found(probably related to the Mithraic faith); but oddly, no skullcaps. It will become clear that the skullcap was once the fashion of the ancients (notwithstanding the mysterious exceptions) especially in the Orient and the Old World. The skullcap retains the same basic ancient design everywhere it is worn. But every country, tradition or religion put its own unique little twists, its own functions,into it. The skullcap became the ‘designer label’ of the entire planet. People traveling on the Silk Road, though perhaps having trouble discerning costume, would have been able to immediately identify each other by their skullcaps or lack thereof. It is not so different today, though the skullcap is no longer the identifying badge it once was. We still know of such identifiers as the Bluebonnetof the Scots, the Béret of the Spanish and French, the Kippah of the Ashkenazic Jews. From its simple design sprung all other caps and most hat designs. It is well known the world over; almost every nation has its own skullcap tradition. It is seen proudly gracing the heads of scholars, rabbis, priests, doctors, martial arts masters and laborers. In the form of the Jewish yarmulke it is the only...
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